Gulu CAO taking the lead in tea growing in Acholi sub-region

Assistant CAO Gulu DLG Mr Oryem Auric and EFOTI Limited Director Edwin Beekunda Atukunda [R] in June. File photo.

The Assistant Chief Administrative Officer [CAO] Gulu District Local Government says he has already taken the lead in being a tea farmer in Acholi sub-region.

Mr Oryem Auric who spoke to TND News on Thursday evening, says “tea is a very welcome project and we only need to get our people know. We need to bring it to their knowledge”

He added “not just talking but we need to take action and we need to sensitize our communities to let them know that tea can really grow well in northern part of Uganda.”

The assistant CAO also says “we as people on the forefront we need to be exemplary; we need to show them the way forward.”

On Wednesday, The Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative Limited [EFOTI Limited], a company with wide knowledge in tea growing, estate management, research, capacity building, among others, under the directorship of Mr Edwin Atukunda Beekunda took Gulu leaders to Lugore government prison where he has established tea nursery beds, a demo farm, among others.

EFOTI Limited who has revived tea farming in northern Uganda, is the producer of Zombo Royal Tea. Its active presence in northern Uganda has seen a number of people showing interest to be tea farmers. This is proven with now more than 500 active tea farmers in Zombo district, alone, over 120 in Oyam, and Gulu district now coming on board.

In leading by example, Mr Oryem told this contemporary online newspaper on Thursday that the EFOTI Limited’s director, Mr Atukunda donated to him 50 tea plantlets for planting.

“He gave me yesterday [Wednesday] and I went and planted it straight away,” he says.

Now committed to promoting tea, Auric tells TND News: “I want to start with 2 acres and then next season 2 acres, like that, like that.”

Asked if tea is one of the cash crops that people in the region, especially Gulu should embrace, he says: “Tea is much easier to manage the way I look at it, it’s not a very difficult thing to manage provided people are sensitized on how to handle.”

He continues that their only worry was that “may be it cannot prosper in our weather; pattern of rain. We have realised it can do well.”

“It’s just a matter of taking the lead. You know our people want to first see. If we don’t show them the way then we can keep on thinking, and keep on dreaming, so, we need to wake up and take a lead. It’s a matter of commitment and being focused,” he emphasized.

Tea experts speak

Mr David Santo Ojwiya, a resident of Laliya village, Laliya sub-county in Gulu district while speaking at Lugore tea demo farm, says tea is a viable commercial cash crop for northern Uganda.

Having worked in tea industry for nearly 37 years, from 1971 to 2009, Santo says he has had a lot of training on tea production, both from the nursery, field and in the factory.

“I feel, there is great opportunity coming to the people in the north; at least people of my community that such viable economic activity is coming nearer to them; something they had not known about before.”

Tea, he added people were convinced couldn’t grow in northern Uganda – at least in Gulu, assuring the public that “tea grows very well like in Kenya and western Uganda – around the base of Rwenzori mountain. Given the fact that the principles of production are technically followed. What do I mean by this? We have tested the soil. The soil fertility ranges between 4.5 to 5.5 PH. The weather pattern is changing now in the north which favours the growing of tea, we have established tea nurseries and they are doing very well, so we are convinced and encouraged.”

David Santo Ojwiya [M] with other leaders at Lugore prison farm where tea nursery bed and demo farm are.

“Very nice, very healthy, very vigorous, very encouraging,” Mr Ojwiya said of tea planted at Lugore government prison farm, adding: “We are convinced that one acre in few months will produce tea and we will be taking.”

“We may not have the factory now but one day we are going to have one.”

Behind tea success in Gulu and entire northern Uganda, he says EFOTI Limited; adding: “The EFOTI Limited is already known, experienced tea company; we are sure he’s not going to let us down. Our appeal now is for the local governments around, starting from the sub-county to the district chairperson to come out boldly and broadly to support this initiative which we are bring to the northern part of this country.”

“We have suffered enough, we have the chance now and we must utilize the chance. This is our appeal to the local government, central government to come out and say something positive. From one acre, we can go to 100 acres and set up a factory,” he added.

Mr Edwin Beekunda Atukunda, the EFOTI Limited director said of his colleague’s expertise: “I’m happy, this is what we needed. I’m proud I worked with Mr Santo in Madhvani in early 2000.”

“The reason why I brought this initiative here, I know there are so many experienced people here who can even do it better than me because he [Santo] trained me himself. So, we are going to work together,” Mr Atukunda added.

The EFOTI Limited director added the foundation’s work was made easily after massive support and hospitality offered by Uganda Prison Services top leadership.

He thanked Commissioner General of Prisons, Can. Dr. Johnson Omuhunde Rwashote Byabashaija for allowing his company to freely use prison farms across the region [Lugore and Loro]. He further thanked the recently promoted Lugore prison OC, Alex Mukkola Oloka. Mr Oloka has been promoted to a new rank, Assistant Commissioner of Prisons.

“We are already in the region, we are raising seedlings and can be able to supply farmers with good tea seedlings,” Mr Atukunda told this digital publication.

EFOTI Limited are in partnership with Kenya’s Kericho and Rwabitaba Tea Research Centre, among others.

In an additional interview with TND News, Friday morning on phone, Santo Ojwiya added that tea, “historically people thought that this cash crop would not grow in northern Uganda and that was the initial belief of the people.”

“No, there is that proof that tea can grow in the region.”

In 1972 to 1973, he reveals that he was one of the pioneer people to establish tea estate in Zeu – West Nile, currently Zombo but because of the war it went out of hand.

Santo Okot was also among few people then who initiated tea growing in Lututuru in the eastern part of Acholi sub-region he describes has favourable weather for tea growing.

“To talk of northern Uganda generally or Acholi sub-region where I’m from, tea grows very well. Two major conditions are important for tea growing and we have them here in our favour,” he concluded.

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